|Issue:||North America 2005|
|Topic:||Technology calling! Is society answering?|
|Author:||Matthew J. Flanigan|
|Organisation:||Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)|
Matthew J. Flanigan is the President of the Telecommunications Industry Association. The TIA is a leading trade association, serving the communications and information technology industry, representing member companies that manufacture or supply the products and services used in global communications. Before becoming TIA President, Mr Flanigan held several positions at Cognitronics Corporation, a publicly owned voice processing equipment manufacturer. Mr Flanigan began his career at Cognitronics working in various sales, manufacturing and engineering positions and rose to be President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr Flanigan serves on the NumereX Corporation Board of Directors and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Industries Foundation, the philanthropic sector of Electronic Industries Alliance.
Communications innovations outpace legislative and regulatory attempts to keep up, so laws and policies become outdated. Governments cannot keep pace with the inventiveness that sends voice, video and data via digital bits and bytes. From a public policy perspective, governments in North America and throughout the world need to provide a non-invasive regulatory environment, foster a climate conducive to innovation and investment, promote universal broadband connectivity, enhance competition, eliminate regulatory barriers to investment, minimize telecommunications taxation and facilitate spectrum access.
The perfect storm… A paradigm shift… Once-per-generation transition… Hundred-year flood… Revolution–not evolution… Technological sea change… Watershed development… Cataclysmic upheaval… Technology tipping point… Turn of the hourglass. Yes, it may seem easy to overstate the importance of the momentous technological upheaval taking place in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry, but the developments are “the real deal” and certainly are producing huge shifts. We are seeing shifts in distance learning, teleworking, telemedicine, and immense information access and instant action via the Internet. Society is on the cusp of a hundred-year sea change, more dramatic than the impacts from the introduction of the telephone itself. In our industry, we are confident we can manage the technical side of our business, including the application of disruptive technologies such as wireless, and the introduction of new services such as voice over Internet Protocol (IP). Of course, technology can be both disruptive and constructive. We hope customers will benefit from the conveniences of new services, and we expect governments to develop positive policies to handle the resulting societal implications. There can be no return to the bulky black dial telephone or plain old telephone service our parents and grandparents enjoyed. Most of us would acknowledge the horse and carriage won’t be travelling our traffic lanes again. Likewise, we understand wireless services, email, the Internet and pocket devices for communications and entertainment are here to stay, helping us traverse seemingly unlimited information superhighways. The one pipe/ one wire era is passing like the telegraph and buggy whip. The reality: communication innovations are outpacing attempts by legislators and regulators to keep up, causing our laws and policies to become outdated. Governments seem unable to keep pace with the inventiveness that sends voice, video and data via digital bits and bytes, by zeros and ones. In other words, ‘technology is calling’, and the question is whether society and governments are answering with supportive frameworks, strategic incentives and protective structures. Convergence, convergence, convergence Much is being written these days about convergence in our industry: The convergence of wireless and wireline telephony, of communications and computing capabilities, of competing facilities able to provide any service over any device, and of IP–enabled broadband networks, services and applications. In fact, next-generation networks are driven by digitisation, packetization and IP standards, so any network will be able to provide any service to any device. This result in dramatically reduced market entry costs, increased flexibility and enhanced competition, and brings enormous economic and societal benefits, including improved quality of life for consumers. From a public policy perspective, TIA believes governments in North America and throughout the world should foster a climate conducive to innovation and investment, including a non-invasive regulatory environment. We represent ICT suppliers serving global markets. Our collective goal as a nonprofit trade association is to achieve a market-oriented policy framework to encourage investment in network facilities and to promote competition in the provision of converged communications services. Key TIA policy principles Our association supports seven policy principles we believe help advance new communications technologies in all markets. We favour: √ Universally available and affordable broadband connectivity; √ Competition among all existing and emerging technology platforms and providers; √ Light-handed, narrowly focused regulation–where necessary; √ Uniform national regulation, where appropriate and possible; √ Elimination of regulatory barriers to investment; √ Minimal, non-discriminatory taxation levels; √ Availability of adequate, unencumbered and usable spectrum. Communications in the United States is governed by the relatively recent Telecommunications Act of 1996, updating the 1934 legislation, which was woefully out of date. Many of us believe the 1996 Act’s structure and some provisions are already outdated, as well. TIA supports minimal, uniform national regulations that promote investment in next-generation network deployments. We believe the Federal Communications Commission in the United States has existing regulatory authority to move quickly to review and update many of its policies and regulations governing the industry, and to continue its agenda to create a less regulated environment for existing and new technologies and services. The association also is concerned that a lengthy process of rewriting the US communications laws could inject uncertainty into the market and slow down investment. Therefore, TIA supports an efficient review by the US Congress, as necessary, and will offer recommendations as appropriate. Broadband, broadband, broadband The first policy principle noted above relates to broadband. We support limited regulatory oversight of the competitive broadband marketplace and universally available/ affordable connectivity. Last year, President Bush called for universal broadband service in this country by 2007. Of course, TIA agrees! This country needs a well-defined, aggressive broadband policy to drive widespread deployment. The service should be available to all, should be secure and advanced, and deployment should be achieved via competitive market forces–not regulations. TIA is well aware of the impressive results that have occurred due to focused national broadband policies in Canada, Korea, China and Japan, as well as in many other countries. In fact, the United States slipped from number 11 in 2003 to number 13 in 2004 for broadband deployment per 100 inhabitants. The list is led by Korea, for example, due to its strategic vision for network build-out. While duplicating other national approaches might not be right for the US, complacency will almost guarantee this country does not improve its ranking. We believe broadband accelerates social and economic development, by connecting communities with essential infrastructure and by creating and reinventing jobs. Productivity is enhanced through services such as teleworking, public health is improved via telemedicine, education is powerfully advanced through distance learning capabilities and manufacturing is boosted. To encourage the introduction of broadband-enabled services, policies should be implemented to foster investment in new and diverse technologies, and the necessary radio spectrum should be made available for deployment of advanced wireless communications services. Vital: voice over IP Voice over IP is vital and becoming mainstream, boosted by broadband expansion. Introduction of the service by telephone companies and cable operators is driving the market, which TIA estimates will reach 26 million access lines in the US by 2008 (see figure on VoIP Access Lines from TIA’s 2005 Telecommunications Market Review and Forecast report). Trading up to broadband in the US is driving growth as the market matures. In fact, broadband is now the principle component of the Internet access market and is spreading rapidly. TIA believes regulation should not be applied to VoIP without thorough justification. The association is convinced a single federal policy for VoIP regulation in the US is a requirement actually demanded by the nature of the technology. Further, all communications technologies should play a part in advancing core public interest issues, such as law enforcement, emergency response needs and universal service, including access by persons with disabilities. We think VoIP must be marketed in a manner allowing consumers to make informed choices. Thus, the association seeks to promote growth of IP networks and applications unfettered by economic regulation. We want to ensure that national policy on regulatory treatment grants the FCC exclusive jurisdiction, because the inherent interstate nature of IP communications makes it virtually impossible to distinguish between intrastate and interstate applications or services. We seek industry-driven solutions for core public interest issues. TIA believes the differences between IP networks, on which VoIP or other IP applications ride, and the traditional circuit-switched networks mean that regulations from the old telecom world should not apply. Accordingly, regulatory oversight of the IP frontier should be narrowly focused and licensing/ certification and tariff requirements are entirely inappropriate for IP services. Research, research, research Research is the backbone of the communications industry, a critical national resource and the building block for future development of advanced products and services. Due to years of turmoil, intense competition and low profitability, however, industry research budgets have been slashed. Companies are still focused on survival in an era of deep cost cutting and lean workforces. The emphasis has been on product development and incremental research, rather than on innovating for the future and seeding technology development. Because of the long-term impact on national social and economic interests, substantial increases are needed in federal funding of communications-related research. Priorities include universal broadband, security, interoperable mobility and homeland security. Actually, US government spending for networking and information technology research and development is expected to decline by US$155 million, or seven per cent in 2006 compared with 2005 spending levels. Communications industry investment is long term and capital intensive. The process is extremely complex, involving time, money and foresight sustained for a decade or more to be fruitful. The advances that result often provide broad-based economic and societal benefits. With diminished corporate funding, the federal government’s budget for research has become an increasingly important source of support. In particular, the association urges US government funding be directed to Department of Defense basic research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and to establish a National Technology Council to guide strategic areas requiring further telecommunications research. Specifically, TIA thinks funding and research are needed in four areas: √ Universal broadband–affordable access and connectivity, using all available media, carrying all services to all customers everywhere to enable a greatly expanded information superhighway; √ Security–new authentication, encryption and monitoring capabilities for all public broadband networks to protect communications assets from attack; √ Interoperable mobility–to access commercial mobile services and emergency services over any mobile network from any mobile instrument; √ Telecommunications research–for homeland security, including interoperability, survivability and encryption. The technological sea change Considering the paradigm shift that is taking place in communications, the multiple convergences of technologies, and the vital nature of broadband and the Internet for every society’s population and progress, it is apparent to TIA that a new era is unfolding. Our communications laws and policies, though, were designed for a monopoly environment that is now history. IP networks and services are the global vehicles of the current and future information superhighway. Technology has tipped the hourglass. Billions of people will benefit. Countries will prosper. The world’s economy will blossom from the technological sea change.